10. Core Services

Now that we have a high-level overview of the Spring Security architecture and its core classes, let’s take a closer look at one or two of the core interfaces and their implementations, in particular the AuthenticationManager, UserDetailsService and the AccessDecisionManager. These crop up regularly throughout the remainder of this document so it’s important you know how they are configured and how they operate.

10.1 The AuthenticationManager, ProviderManager and AuthenticationProvider

The AuthenticationManager is just an interface, so the implementation can be anything we choose, but how does it work in practice? What if we need to check multiple authentication databases or a combination of different authentication services such as a database and an LDAP server?

The default implementation in Spring Security is called ProviderManager and rather than handling the authentication request itself, it delegates to a list of configured AuthenticationProvider s, each of which is queried in turn to see if it can perform the authentication. Each provider will either throw an exception or return a fully populated Authentication object. Remember our good friends, UserDetails and UserDetailsService? If not, head back to the previous chapter and refresh your memory. The most common approach to verifying an authentication request is to load the corresponding UserDetails and check the loaded password against the one that has been entered by the user. This is the approach used by the DaoAuthenticationProvider (see below). The loaded UserDetails object - and particularly the GrantedAuthority s it contains - will be used when building the fully populated Authentication object which is returned from a successful authentication and stored in the SecurityContext.

If you are using the namespace, an instance of ProviderManager is created and maintained internally, and you add providers to it by using the namespace authentication provider elements (see the namespace chapter). In this case, you should not declare a ProviderManager bean in your application context. However, if you are not using the namespace then you would declare it like so:

<bean id="authenticationManager"
			<ref local="daoAuthenticationProvider"/>
			<ref local="anonymousAuthenticationProvider"/>
			<ref local="ldapAuthenticationProvider"/>

In the above example we have three providers. They are tried in the order shown (which is implied by the use of a List), with each provider able to attempt authentication, or skip authentication by simply returning null. If all implementations return null, the ProviderManager will throw a ProviderNotFoundException. If you’re interested in learning more about chaining providers, please refer to the ProviderManager Javadoc.

Authentication mechanisms such as a web form-login processing filter are injected with a reference to the ProviderManager and will call it to handle their authentication requests. The providers you require will sometimes be interchangeable with the authentication mechanisms, while at other times they will depend on a specific authentication mechanism. For example, DaoAuthenticationProvider and LdapAuthenticationProvider are compatible with any mechanism which submits a simple username/password authentication request and so will work with form-based logins or HTTP Basic authentication. On the other hand, some authentication mechanisms create an authentication request object which can only be interpreted by a single type of AuthenticationProvider. An example of this would be JA-SIG CAS, which uses the notion of a service ticket and so can therefore only be authenticated by a CasAuthenticationProvider. You needn’t be too concerned about this, because if you forget to register a suitable provider, you’ll simply receive a ProviderNotFoundException when an attempt to authenticate is made.

10.1.1 Erasing Credentials on Successful Authentication

By default (from Spring Security 3.1 onwards) the ProviderManager will attempt to clear any sensitive credentials information from the Authentication object which is returned by a successful authentication request. This prevents information like passwords being retained longer than necessary.

This may cause issues when you are using a cache of user objects, for example, to improve performance in a stateless application. If the Authentication contains a reference to an object in the cache (such as a UserDetails instance) and this has its credentials removed, then it will no longer be possible to authenticate against the cached value. You need to take this into account if you are using a cache. An obvious solution is to make a copy of the object first, either in the cache implementation or in the AuthenticationProvider which creates the returned Authentication object. Alternatively, you can disable the eraseCredentialsAfterAuthentication property on ProviderManager. See the Javadoc for more information.

10.1.2 DaoAuthenticationProvider

The simplest AuthenticationProvider implemented by Spring Security is DaoAuthenticationProvider, which is also one of the earliest supported by the framework. It leverages a UserDetailsService (as a DAO) in order to lookup the username, password and GrantedAuthority s. It authenticates the user simply by comparing the password submitted in a UsernamePasswordAuthenticationToken against the one loaded by the UserDetailsService. Configuring the provider is quite simple:

<bean id="daoAuthenticationProvider"
<property name="userDetailsService" ref="inMemoryDaoImpl"/>
<property name="passwordEncoder" ref="passwordEncoder"/>

The PasswordEncoder is optional. A PasswordEncoder provides encoding and decoding of passwords presented in the UserDetails object that is returned from the configured UserDetailsService. This will be discussed in more detail below.

10.2 UserDetailsService Implementations

As mentioned in the earlier in this reference guide, most authentication providers take advantage of the UserDetails and UserDetailsService interfaces. Recall that the contract for UserDetailsService is a single method:

UserDetails loadUserByUsername(String username) throws UsernameNotFoundException;

The returned UserDetails is an interface that provides getters that guarantee non-null provision of authentication information such as the username, password, granted authorities and whether the user account is enabled or disabled. Most authentication providers will use a UserDetailsService, even if the username and password are not actually used as part of the authentication decision. They may use the returned UserDetails object just for its GrantedAuthority information, because some other system (like LDAP or X.509 or CAS etc) has undertaken the responsibility of actually validating the credentials.

Given UserDetailsService is so simple to implement, it should be easy for users to retrieve authentication information using a persistence strategy of their choice. Having said that, Spring Security does include a couple of useful base implementations, which we’ll look at below.

10.2.1 In-Memory Authentication

Is easy to use create a custom UserDetailsService implementation that extracts information from a persistence engine of choice, but many applications do not require such complexity. This is particularly true if you’re building a prototype application or just starting integrating Spring Security, when you don’t really want to spend time configuring databases or writing UserDetailsService implementations. For this sort of situation, a simple option is to use the user-service element from the security namespace:

<user-service id="userDetailsService">
<!-- Password is prefixed with {noop} to indicate to DelegatingPasswordEncoder that
NoOpPasswordEncoder should be used. This is not safe for production, but makes reading
in samples easier. Normally passwords should be hashed using BCrypt -->
<user name="jimi" password="{noop}jimispassword" authorities="ROLE_USER, ROLE_ADMIN" />
<user name="bob" password="{noop}bobspassword" authorities="ROLE_USER" />

This also supports the use of an external properties file:

<user-service id="userDetailsService" properties="users.properties"/>

The properties file should contain entries in the form


For example


10.2.2 JdbcDaoImpl

Spring Security also includes a UserDetailsService that can obtain authentication information from a JDBC data source. Internally Spring JDBC is used, so it avoids the complexity of a fully-featured object relational mapper (ORM) just to store user details. If your application does use an ORM tool, you might prefer to write a custom UserDetailsService to reuse the mapping files you’ve probably already created. Returning to JdbcDaoImpl, an example configuration is shown below:

<bean id="dataSource" class="org.springframework.jdbc.datasource.DriverManagerDataSource">
<property name="driverClassName" value="org.hsqldb.jdbcDriver"/>
<property name="url" value="jdbc:hsqldb:hsql://localhost:9001"/>
<property name="username" value="sa"/>
<property name="password" value=""/>

<bean id="userDetailsService"
<property name="dataSource" ref="dataSource"/>

You can use different relational database management systems by modifying the DriverManagerDataSource shown above. You can also use a global data source obtained from JNDI, as with any other Spring configuration.

Authority Groups

By default, JdbcDaoImpl loads the authorities for a single user with the assumption that the authorities are mapped directly to users (see the database schema appendix). An alternative approach is to partition the authorities into groups and assign groups to the user. Some people prefer this approach as a means of administering user rights. See the JdbcDaoImpl Javadoc for more information on how to enable the use of group authorities. The group schema is also included in the appendix.

10.3 Password Encoding

Spring Security’s PasswordEncoder interface is used to perform a one way transformation of a password to allow the password to be stored securely. Given PasswordEncoder is a one way transformation, it is not intended when the password transformation needs to be two way (i.e. storing credentials used to authenticate to a database). Typically PasswordEncoder is used for storing a password that needs to be compared to a user provided password at the time of authentication.

10.3.1 Password History

Throughout the years the standard mechanism for storing passwords has evolved. In the beginning passwords were stored in plain text. The passwords were assumed to be safe because the data store the passwords were saved in required credentials to access it. However, malicious users were able to find ways to get large "data dumps" of usernames and passwords using attacks like SQL Injection. As more and more user credentials became public security experts realized we needed to do more to protect users passwords.

Developers were then encouraged to store passwords after running them through a one way hash such as SHA-256. When a user tried to authenticate, the hashed password would be compared to the hash of the password that they typed. This meant that the system only needed to store the one way hash of the password. If a breach occurred, then only the one way hashes of the passwords were exposed. Since the hashes were one way and it was computationally difficult to guess the passwords given the hash, it would not be worth the effort to figure out each password in the system. To defeat this new system malicious users decided to create lookup tables known as Rainbow Tables. Rather than doing the work of guessing each password every time, they computed the password once and stored it in a lookup table.

To mitigate the effectiveness of Rainbow Tables, developers were encouraged to use salted passwords. Instead of using just the password as input to the hash function, random bytes (known as salt) would be generated for every users' password. The salt and the user’s password would be ran through the hash function which produced a unique hash. The salt would be stored alongside the user’s password in clear text. Then when a user tried to authenticate, the hashed password would be compared to the hash of the stored salt and the password that they typed. The unique salt meant that Rainbow Tables were no longer effective because the hash was different for every salt and password combination.

In modern times we realize that cryptographic hashes (like SHA-256) are no longer secure. The reason is that with modern hardware we can perform billions of hash calculations a second. This means that we can crack each password individually with ease.

Developers are now encouraged to leverage adaptive one-way functions to store a password. Validation of passwords with adaptive one-way functions are intentionally resource (i.e. CPU, memory, etc) intensive. An adaptive one-way function allows configuring a "work factor" which can grow as hardware gets better. It is recommended that the "work factor" be tuned to take about 1 second to verify a password on your system. This trade off is to make it difficult for attackers to crack the password, but not so costly it puts excessive burden on your own system. Spring Security has attempted to provide a good starting point for the "work factor", but users are encouraged to customize the "work factor" for their own system since the performance will vary drastically from system to system. Examples of adaptive one-way functions that should be used include bcrypt, PBKDF2, scrypt, and Argon2.

Because adaptive one-way functions are intentionally resource intensive, validating a username and password for every request will degrade performance of an application significantly. There is nothing Spring Security (or any other library) can do to speed up the validation of the password since security is gained by making the validation resource intensive. Users are encouraged to exchange the long term credentials (i.e. username and password) for a short term credential (i.e. session, OAuth Token, etc). The short term credential can be validated quickly without any loss in security.

10.3.2 DelegatingPasswordEncoder

Prior to Spring Security 5.0 the default PasswordEncoder was NoOpPasswordEncoder which required plain text passwords. Based upon the Password History section you might expect that the default PasswordEncoder is now something like BCryptPasswordEncoder. However, this ignores three real world problems:

  • There are many applications using old password encodings that cannot easily migrate
  • The best practice for password storage will change again.
  • As a framework Spring Security cannot make breaking changes frequently

Instead Spring Security introduces DelegatingPasswordEncoder which solves all of the problems by:

  • Ensuring that passwords are encoded using the current password storage recommendations
  • Allowing for validating passwords in modern and legacy formats
  • Allowing for upgrading the encoding in the future

You can easily construct an instance of DelegatingPasswordEncoder using PasswordEncoderFactories.

PasswordEncoder passwordEncoder =

Alternatively, you may create your own custom instance. For example:

String idForEncode = "bcrypt";
Map encoders = new HashMap<>();
encoders.put(idForEncode, new BCryptPasswordEncoder());
encoders.put("noop", NoOpPasswordEncoder.getInstance());
encoders.put("pbkdf2", new Pbkdf2PasswordEncoder());
encoders.put("scrypt", new SCryptPasswordEncoder());
encoders.put("sha256", new StandardPasswordEncoder());

PasswordEncoder passwordEncoder =
    new DelegatingPasswordEncoder(idForEncode, encoders);

Password Storage Format

The general format for a password is:


Such that id is an identifier used to look up which PasswordEncoder should be used and encodedPassword is the original encoded password for the selected PasswordEncoder. The id must be at the beginning of the password, start with { and end with }. If the id cannot be found, the id will be null. For example, the following might be a list of passwords encoded using different id. All of the original passwords are "password".

{bcrypt}$2a$10$dXJ3SW6G7P50lGmMkkmwe.20cQQubK3.HZWzG3YB1tlRy.fqvM/BG 1
{noop}password 2
{pbkdf2}5d923b44a6d129f3ddf3e3c8d29412723dcbde72445e8ef6bf3b508fbf17fa4ed4d6b99ca763d8dc 3
{scrypt}$e0801$8bWJaSu2IKSn9Z9kM+TPXfOc/9bdYSrN1oD9qfVThWEwdRTnO7re7Ei+fUZRJ68k9lTyuTeUp4of4g24hHnazw==$OAOec05+bXxvuu/1qZ6NUR+xQYvYv7BeL1QxwRpY5Pc=  4
{sha256}97cde38028ad898ebc02e690819fa220e88c62e0699403e94fff291cfffaf8410849f27605abcbc0 5


The first password would have a PasswordEncoder id of bcrypt and encodedPassword of $2a$10$dXJ3SW6G7P50lGmMkkmwe.20cQQubK3.HZWzG3YB1tlRy.fqvM/BG. When matching it would delegate to BCryptPasswordEncoder


The second password would have a PasswordEncoder id of noop and encodedPassword of password. When matching it would delegate to NoOpPasswordEncoder


The third password would have a PasswordEncoder id of pbkdf2 and encodedPassword of 5d923b44a6d129f3ddf3e3c8d29412723dcbde72445e8ef6bf3b508fbf17fa4ed4d6b99ca763d8dc. When matching it would delegate to Pbkdf2PasswordEncoder


The fourth password would have a PasswordEncoder id of scrypt and encodedPassword of $e0801$8bWJaSu2IKSn9Z9kM+TPXfOc/9bdYSrN1oD9qfVThWEwdRTnO7re7Ei+fUZRJ68k9lTyuTeUp4of4g24hHnazw==$OAOec05+bXxvuu/1qZ6NUR+xQYvYv7BeL1QxwRpY5Pc= When matching it would delegate to SCryptPasswordEncoder


The final password would have a PasswordEncoder id of sha256 and encodedPassword of 97cde38028ad898ebc02e690819fa220e88c62e0699403e94fff291cfffaf8410849f27605abcbc0. When matching it would delegate to StandardPasswordEncoder


Some users might be concerned that the storage format is provided for a potential hacker. This is not a concern because the storage of the password does not rely on the algorithm being a secret. Additionally, most formats are easy for an attacker to figure out without the prefix. For example, BCrypt passwords often start with $2a$.

Password Encoding

The idForEncode passed into the constructor determines which PasswordEncoder will be used for encoding passwords. In the DelegatingPasswordEncoder we constructed above, that means that the result of encoding password would be delegated to BCryptPasswordEncoder and be prefixed with {bcrypt}. The end result would look like:


Password Matching

Matching is done based upon the {id} and the mapping of the id to the PasswordEncoder provided in the constructor. Our example in the section called “Password Storage Format” provides a working example of how this is done. By default, the result of invoking matches(CharSequence, String) with a password and an id that is not mapped (including a null id) will result in an IllegalArgumentException. This behavior can be customized using DelegatingPasswordEncoder.setDefaultPasswordEncoderForMatches(PasswordEncoder).

By using the id we can match on any password encoding, but encode passwords using the most modern password encoding. This is important, because unlike encryption, password hashes are designed so that there is no simple way to recover the plaintext. Since there is no way to recover the plaintext, it makes it difficult to migrate the passwords. While it is simple for users to migrate NoOpPasswordEncoder, we chose to include it by default to make it simple for the getting started experience.

Getting Started Experience

If you are putting together a demo or a sample, it is a bit cumbersome to take time to hash the passwords of your users. There are convenience mechanisms to make this easier, but this is still not intended for production.

User user = User.withDefaultPasswordEncoder()
// {bcrypt}$2a$10$dXJ3SW6G7P50lGmMkkmwe.20cQQubK3.HZWzG3YB1tlRy.fqvM/BG

If you are creating multiple users, you can also reuse the builder.

UserBuilder users = User.withDefaultPasswordEncoder();
User user = users
User admin = users

This does hash the password that is stored, but the passwords are still exposed in memory and in the compiled source code. Therefore, it is still not considered secure for a production environment. For production, you should hash your passwords externally.


The following error occurs when one of the passwords that are stored has no id as described in the section called “Password Storage Format”.

java.lang.IllegalArgumentException: There is no PasswordEncoder mapped for the id "null"
	at org.springframework.security.crypto.password.DelegatingPasswordEncoder$UnmappedIdPasswordEncoder.matches(DelegatingPasswordEncoder.java:233)
	at org.springframework.security.crypto.password.DelegatingPasswordEncoder.matches(DelegatingPasswordEncoder.java:196)

The easiest way to resolve the error is to switch to explicitly provide the PasswordEncoder that you passwords are encoded with. The easiest way to resolve it is to figure out how your passwords are currently being stored and explicitly provide the correct PasswordEncoder. If you are migrating from Spring Security 4.2.x you can revert to the previous behavior by exposing a NoOpPasswordEncoder bean. For example, if you are using Java Configuration, you can create a configuration that looks like:


Reverting to NoOpPasswordEncoder is not considered to be secure. You should instead migrate to using DelegatingPasswordEncoder to support secure password encoding.

public static NoOpPasswordEncoder passwordEncoder() {
    return NoOpPasswordEncoder.getInstance();

if you are using XML configuration, you can expose a PasswordEncoder with the id passwordEncoder:

<b:bean id="passwordEncoder"
        class="org.springframework.security.crypto.password.NoOpPasswordEncoder" factory-method="getInstance"/>

Alternatively, you can prefix all of your passwords with the correct id and continue to use DelegatingPasswordEncoder. For example, if you are using BCrypt, you would migrate your password from something like:




For a complete listing of the mappings refer to the Javadoc on PasswordEncoderFactories.

10.3.3 BCryptPasswordEncoder

The BCryptPasswordEncoder implementation uses the widely supported bcrypt algorithm to hash the passwords. In order to make it more resistent to password cracking, bcrypt is deliberately slow. Like other adaptive one-way functions, it should be tuned to take about 1 second to verify a password on your system.

// Create an encoder with strength 16
BCryptPasswordEncoder encoder = new BCryptPasswordEncoder(16);
String result = encoder.encode("myPassword");
assertTrue(encoder.matches("myPassword", result));

10.3.4 Pbkdf2PasswordEncoder

The Pbkdf2PasswordEncoder implementation uses the PBKDF2 algorithm to hash the passwords. In order to defeat password cracking PBKDF2 is a deliberately slow algorithm. Like other adaptive one-way functions, it should be tuned to take about 1 second to verify a password on your system. This algorithm is a good choice when FIPS certification is required.

// Create an encoder with all the defaults
Pbkdf2PasswordEncoder encoder = new Pbkdf2PasswordEncoder();
String result = encoder.encode("myPassword");
assertTrue(encoder.matches("myPassword", result));

10.3.5 SCryptPasswordEncoder

The SCryptPasswordEncoder implementation uses scrypt algorithm to hash the passwords. In order to defeat password cracking on custom hardware scrypt is a deliberately slow algorithm that requires large amounts of memory. Like other adaptive one-way functions, it should be tuned to take about 1 second to verify a password on your system.

// Create an encoder with all the defaults
SCryptPasswordEncoder encoder = new SCryptPasswordEncoder();
String result = encoder.encode("myPassword");
assertTrue(encoder.matches("myPassword", result));

10.3.6 Other PasswordEncoders

There are a significant number of other PasswordEncoder implementations that exist entirely for backward compatibility. They are all deprecated to indicate that they are no longer considered secure. However, there are no plans to remove them since it is difficult to migrate existing legacy systems.

10.4 Jackson Support

Spring Security has added Jackson Support for persisting Spring Security related classes. This can improve the performance of serializing Spring Security related classes when working with distributed sessions (i.e. session replication, Spring Session, etc).

To use it, register the JacksonJacksonModules.getModules(ClassLoader) as Jackson Modules.

ObjectMapper mapper = new ObjectMapper();
ClassLoader loader = getClass().getClassLoader();
List<Module> modules = SecurityJackson2Modules.getModules(loader);

// ... use ObjectMapper as normally ...
SecurityContext context = new SecurityContextImpl();
// ...
String json = mapper.writeValueAsString(context);